Monday, December 17, 2018


We tried a few amazing Riojas in New York so we decided to go to the Rioja region to try these amazing wines. I thought that in New York we could only have had a small sample of Rioja wines and therefore there were a lot more amazing Rioja wines to discover. What did we visit?

We stayed at the Marquis de Riscal hotel. An amazing hotel I strongly recommend in Cenicero.

What wineries did we try?

Bodega Tritium - open on Sunday
A more modern Rioja winery. We tried their various wines and we thought that as a mix it was overall the best wine set/mix.  We got a bunch of wines mostly reserva and blends. Also, you get a tour of a traditional winery set up in the center of a small town.

Bodega Ostatu - traditional Rioja
To compare with the modern and innovative Tritium wines we then went to Bodega Ostatu in Rioja Alavesa. It is a family winery with a nice tasting room. We personally preferred the more modern Riojas. Howeve,r the drive from Guardia to Ostatu was beautiful with the snow mountains in the back, certainly worth a drive.

Bodega Benjamin de Rothchild & Vega - they don't take visitors
We had the opportunity to try their wines at the Michelin starred restaurant at the Marquis de Riscal hotel and we loved it. The concierge told us that they unfortunately don't take visitors. Perhaps a next time we can try to leverage this blog to get their doors to open.

Lunch in Guardia
We had a great lunch in La Guardia where the view was really nice. Quite a lot of small restaurants. We strongly recommend a reservation though as it is very hard to get in otherwise.

Marquis de Riscal - extremely commercial to an unpleasant point
After lunch, and a nap, as we were staying at the Marquis de Riscal hotel we of course got in the wine tour and tasting of the Marquis de Riscal winery. For the first 20 minute,s we were sat down in a movie theather and we were shown all kind of movies without much substance all to the glory of the winery. It reminded me a lot of the communist propaganda movies. Als,o they spent a lot of time talking about their hotel architecture, plans, moneys spent, etc. We were there for the wine. So we snicked out of the tour, went to the tasting room, where we tried 3 wines that felt very average to us. And then we paid extra to have 2 or 3 glasses of their more expensive wines which, we also felt in the moment, were just ok at best. We didn't try their ridiculously most expensive wine though. I really believe that at comparable prices La Rioja Alta Reserve 904 or Roda kicks the ass of the Grand Reserva Riscal for example.

Most of the large wineries are in Haro and closed on Sundays. We did a few wineries there:

La Rioja Alta - large commercial and nice tasting room
We had some older Rioja Alta, which is what we had in New York too. And it turns out they are probably my favorite Rioja wines. A lot of nose and flavors. And reasonably priced for such old wines. We took the number of the New York importer for them : Michael Skurnik Wines + 1 516 677 9300

Roda - at the entrance in Haro
The other amazing Rioja we had in New York. Larger winery as well but maybe more boutique. The tasting room was nearly empty and small. We also loved their wines. Dark and fairly strong. We loaded on Roda I from there.

We also stopped at Muga. Also large commercial but more traditional winemakers. It turns out we prefer modern Rioja wines.

Overall it turns out from this trip that I am more intrigued by the Ribera Del Duero wines on average.
In Rioj,a my favorites were older La Rioja Alta Reserve 904 of 10+ years of age. My wife preferred the Roda I, also older bottles. And the other wine worth a mention were Tritium and The Rothchild & Vega wines which unfortunately we didn't get to try extensively.

After visiting Rioja we went to San Sebastian for the food and the surf. We strongly and entirely recommend San Sebastian, staying at the hotel Maria Christina, as an amazing next step from Rioja.

Monday, May 14, 2018


Lethbridge Wines

Australia is dry.

But it has amazing surf :

And even more amazing wine!
I first tried the Lethbridge Pinot Noir 2014 at the Langham hotel in downtown Melbourne. They have a very nice selection of wines with a gas system which allows them to serve you by the glass unique expensive wines. I was so pleased that I decided to go visit the winery.

At the winery, I was welcomed by the wine marker's themselves Maree and Ray. Both have PhDs, one in biology and one in chemistry. And you can tell from the wines.
It turns out that the wines are among the best in Australia. They are served at the most prestigious restaurants and hotels. And they are far from cheap.

I had an idea that Australian wines, because of the lack of regulation, are mostly made in stainless steel vats with wooden chips, at industrial scale. This is quite the opposite: Ray gave me a tour of the back room and we sampled wines from the barrels and even the fermentation barrels (yes, he ferments them in oak vats or barrels depending on the size of the harvest).

Also, I was very impressed with the variety of grapes they make wine from: I would say at least about 20 different grapes. And the styles go from Ripasso to Amphora Aged! I don't think I have ever seen such a diversity in grapes, and winemaking techniques. I would typically be afraid that a winemaker can't possibly excel at such a diversity of grapes and techniques but everything I tried made me think that they, in fact, do excel at all of them. Not to mention that they nearly always have about half a dozen young winemakers or interns from Europe and other parts of the world visiting to learn their art.

Anyway, I sampled all their production. And I strongly recommend trying the aged Chardonnays. They are unbelievable. I really loved, as expected, the Pinot Noirs. The single vineyard pack made from 4 different soils were extremely interesting but it is the blend of the 4 that I like the most.
I discovered the Aglianico. Very impressive as well.
And last but not least their Syrah was also very unique, a little salty.

I left with a case, via Indonesia, on the way home. And guess what? In the Bali airport, they threatened to confiscate my entire case after I properly declared it. Luckily, but still very sad, I managed to negotiate to leave 3 bottles only and keep 9. I am sure the customs officers "destroyed" the wine as soon as practicable.

Helen & Joey

While I didn't have time to visit more wineries around Lethbridge, the following day we went to Healesville Animal Reserve and on the way back home we had to stop at some wineries. There were so many of them! We picked the one with an interesting name and, we were told, a beautiful view. And indeed the view was really fun.

We were served a variety of wines by the charming front desk girls. The winery has 3 levels of wines:
1. Entry level. Inara. Un-oaked, very young. And honestly, I really don't like this style of wine. Very acid.
2. A mid-level that turned out to be our favorite. Layla.
3. The Alena, their high end.

And they also make a "unique wine every year", a wine that is made as experiments by the winemaking team. Each year a different experiment.

And we left with 12 bottles, which were shipped home. But honestly, I don't remember what we bought, lets see what arrives in the mail.

And the obligatory Australian picture: